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A friend of mine is worried about missing her flight home when she travels to Paris. Her thinking is that there will be a language barrier and she will miss the announcements for her flight in French. I've told her a couple of times that it's likely similar there as it is here (Canada), that they announce the flight in at least a few languages.

In airports here they announce starting with English, then French, and other languages follow. While I've never been to France myself I assume it would be much the same, where they announce flights in French first, then English and other languages to follow.

Can anyone confirm this to assuage my friend's worries?

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    Well, there are alot of airports in France. Which one is your freind using? – skifans Sep 22 '17 at 18:38
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    Also, i wouldn't count on any announcements for flights. Some airports, e.g. in Germany, don't announce the flights anymore, just because of the huge amount of flights (except of course in the gate area, but then you also have screens where you see if you're at the right gate). So just be sure, that you or your friend always check the information screens about any changes. – dunni Sep 22 '17 at 18:56
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    Who can understand the squeaky garbled chipmunk voice on any airport speaker system? Foreign language seems irrelevant as one can never rely on announcements alone. – Basil Bourque Sep 23 '17 at 0:33
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    Your friend needs to chill. France is not Japan. We use the same alphabet. She'll understand most of the signs. For instance, "Information" translates to "Information". Plus, there are lots of icons everywhere. Most staff members know English. And even if a staff member doesn't speak English very well, she can just show her boarding pass for her connecting flight (on her phone or on paper) and she will be shown the way. And if she's late for her connecting flight, they will call her full name over the loudspeaker a few times doing their best to pronounce it in English each time. – Stephan Branczyk Sep 23 '17 at 13:27
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    Ryan: n.b.: When someone asks "which airport in France", "Paris" is not a specific answer - Paris has two major airports, Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to the east of Paris and Orly (ORY) on the west side. There are international flights from/to both. ORY is just as navigable to a non-Francophone as CDG is, so for the purposes of this question it doesn't matter which one... but FYI for the future. :) – Jamie Hanrahan Sep 23 '17 at 19:54
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There should be no problem. 99% of city names are the same in French as they are in the native language, and when they're not the same, they're very similar (Moskva/Moscou, London/Londres). Find the gate on the departures board, and sit by it. Pay attention to the time. When people get on the plane follow them and hand your ticket to the gate agent.

In other words, the same as in any other airport in any other country. Airports (particularly international airports) are designed to be easy to navigate, even for people who don't speak the local language.

You haven't mentioned what language your friend speaks, but the staff at the gate should have someone there who speaks the language of the destination country (e.g., English if she's traveling to an English-speaking country).

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    Furthermore, English is the primary lingua franca in Europe. In nearly every context related to international travel, signs and announcements are in English in addition to the local language, and staff will be required to be able to speak at least basic English. – phoog Sep 22 '17 at 18:53
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    Signage even at the smaller airports I have used in France was bilingual French/English (also icons). Announcements were in French, English, and sometimes a third language (e.g., Arabic). There is zero chance your friend will miss her flight for a language issue. Perhaps this is a screen for a fear she won't want to go home after seeing Paris. – Andrew Lazarus Sep 22 '17 at 18:55
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    fwiw, airports are basically the only place I never worry about language barriers. Almost anywhere in the world (and certainly in any developed country), signs will be in English. – Apologize and reinstate Monica Sep 22 '17 at 21:41
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    "99% of city names are the same in French as they are in the native language" - in writing, yes, but pronunciation can be quite different, if the OP indeed wants their friend to rely on audio announcements. – O. R. Mapper Sep 22 '17 at 22:06
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    Regarding comments about pronunciation, you have missed the point of this Answer: Read the departure board. No pronunciation involved at all. Other tips: (a) Use the airline’s app on your phone. Some will even alert you as to gate changes. (b) When you hear some folks speaking any English, ask for their assistance. Or ask any nearby French speakers, "Parlez-vous anglais?". – Basil Bourque Sep 23 '17 at 0:40
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Many airports don't announce flights at all. I can't remember the last time I was at an airport that does and I can say with confidence that London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol, Detroit and Minneapolis–Saint Paul don't (yes, I know, none of those is in France).

Your friend should use information screens to determine which gate they need to go to, and be at the gate in good time – usually at least half an hour before a short-haul flight departs and at least an hour before a long-haul flight.

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    Exactly. It's all about the signs and the screens. – Jamie Hanrahan Sep 23 '17 at 19:55
  • +1 for making this language independent. French is irrelevant, even at a French airport. Last time I went to Beijing without being able to read Chinese I could perfectly find my way to my next flight. Chinese was just as irrelevant as French is in a French airport. Yes, it's all over the place. No, you don't need to be able to understand it to get where you need to go. – Mast Sep 24 '17 at 19:10
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I think the only case where she might have an issue is if there is a last minute gate change, in which case there will be an announcement (likely in French + English and perhaps another language if the flight is going to somewhere where that language is spoken) and folks will start to migrate to the new gate.

It pays to be a bit vigilant as the expected boarding time approaches. If she is Canadian she probably understands more French than she realizes and will pick up the new gate number and flight information from the French enough to prick up her ears for the version en Anglais.

Other than that, the gates are marked in the usual way on the boarding pass (or, if not, as with early online check-in, available from monitor screens in Departures), and she will find her way to the designated gate, whether it's CDG (Roissy - Charles de Gaulle) or ORY (Orly) airports, by following the signs.

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    "the gates are marked in the usual way on the boarding pass" - my impression is that these days, more often than not, the check-in people will tell me the gate will be announced at a later time, which is why no gate is printed on the boarding pass. – O. R. Mapper Sep 22 '17 at 22:07
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    @O.R.Mapper Good point, especially with online early check ins. Edited. – Spehro Pefhany Sep 22 '17 at 22:31
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I've been to CDG (Roissy - Charles de Gaulle) airport in Paris, and they announce flights in English and French. Also the staff speaks good English and are very helpful but not smiling :). You should be OK.

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I have flown through CDG numerous times over the last couple of years, most recently in April. My flights have always been announced in at least French and English.

I find CDG easy to transit, it's not bad if you're starting or ending your trip there either. Good signage, much of it in English, will help her to her gate.

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    Hmm. I've always found the signage at CDG to be pretty poor, especially if you have to change terminals. The sort of thing where you think, "Hmm, I've not seen a sign for a while" and then, when you backtrack, you see that you missed some little sign in a completely different style to the ones you were following. But I've not been there for a while, probably six or seven years. Hopefully, I'm just out of date. – David Richerby Sep 24 '17 at 9:30
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Flights announcements are always done, among other few languages (French & the language(s) of your country of destination ), in English too. This is valid in all the airports of France. So no worries about that.

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TL/DR - Don't rely on announcements.

I've been in places where there were no English announcements or I couldn't understand what was presumably English announcements ;). In lounges, there's typically no announcements at all.

If she's worried about missing the flight, she should go (as close as possible) to the departure gate first to know where it is, and how far.

Then, keep an eye on the time and departure boards.

98.7%, announcements at the gate will be made in several languages, English and French for sure.

  • @Willeke I have to ask, did you even read the other Answers? Please point out the duplicate information so I can better differentiate. – Johns-305 Sep 23 '17 at 12:38
  • Not much of an improvement, still should just be a comment in my view. (No -1 but near.) – Willeke Sep 23 '17 at 13:08
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While I have never been in France I have been in a lot of foreign airports. Departure boards are departure boards, fight numbers are flight numbers, gate numbers are gate numbers, times are times. Even without translation the only reason you could have a problem is if you were in a country that doesn't use our alphabet (and not always even then--when the departure boards in China are in their Chinese phase the flight number is still in our alphabet and they normally use our numbers but the city is unreadable. IIRC Japan does this also but it's been long enough I won't swear to it.) In practice I have never seen an airport that didn't show the information in English as well as the local language and I've never had any question of where I should go.

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